Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

November 2012 Archives

The Cubs have named Scott Harris, 25, the director of baseball operations replacing Scott Nelson, who was offered another position with the team last summer. Harris spent the last two seasons with Major League Baseball as the league coordinator of major league operations. He provided transaction support and analysis to all major league clubs and helped manage procedural operations in the league office.
He was an intern for the Cincinnati Reds in 2010 and with the Washington Nationals in 2008 before working for MLB.
Harris is a native of Redwood City, Calif., and a 2009 graduate of UCLA. He was attending Columbia Business School while working at MLB.


The Cubs had to postpone opening their Rink at Wrigley a week ago because of unseasonably warm temperatures. But the ice skating rink's opening now is set for Friday to coincide with lighting of the holiday tree.
Team chairman Tom Ricketts, Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins and Cubs outfielder David DeJesus will take part in the 5 p.m. tree-lighting ceremony. The 30-foot decorated tree donated by Christy Webber Landscapes will be placed near the Wrigley Field Marquee at the corner of Clark and Addison.
After the ceremony, the ice skating rink will be opened for one free hour of public skating. The rink will again be located in the parking lot at the corner of Clark and Waveland. The rink is sponsored by the Cubs, the Chicago Park District, Central Lakeview Merchants, Westrec Marinas management and Christy Webber Landscapes.

The Cubs have signed free agent right-hander Scott Feldman, 29, who will join the rotation with hopes of rebounding from a poor 2012 season with Texas.
Feldman agreed to a one-year deal worth an estimated $6 million. Incentives could add as much as $1 million more to the deal.
The Rangers opted not to re-sign Feldman after he finished 6-11 with a 5.09 ERA in 21 starts and eight relief appearances.
But Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Feldman and former Minnesota pitcher Scott Baker, who signed a one-year deal two weeks ago, were the free agents the Cubs targeted.
``You're always looking to find value in the free agent market,'' Hoyer said Tuesday. ``You're always looking for guys who provide value. Both Baker and Feldman were guys we targeted because we thought they could both benefit coming to the National League.''
Feldman's breakout season came in 2009 with the Rangers when he went 17-8 with a 4.08 ERA in 31 starts and three relief appearances is an indication of his talent. He was the opening day starter in 2010 but went 7-11 with a 5.48 ERA and had off-season surgery on his right knee.
He missed the first half of 2011 while he recuperated, going 2-1 with a 3.94 ERA. He was used as a starter and in relief in 2012.
``We signed Scott as a starter,'' Hoyer said. ``I know he bounced around with the Rangers but I think that was partly because of their depth. We've always liked his stuff. He gets ground balls and he's pitched in difficult environments. Given his age and his stuff, it's another chance to get a quality arm.''
``He felt he was looking over his shoulder a lot [worried about bad outings,]'' Hoyer said. ``If you look inside his [2012] numbers, they weren't what he hoped but he also was one of the least lucky pitchers. It wasn't as bad as the ERA on paper.''
Feldman said the Cubs' 101-loss season didn't deter him from signing.
``To be honest, I think you see what happens in baseball,'' he said Tuesday. ``No one was ready to crown the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles with anything at the beginning of the season and they made the playoffs, and the Orioles bounced us. Baseball is a funny game and anything can happen. It's unpredictable in that way. On paper, it might look tough to turn around a 100-loss team, but crazier things have happened.''
Feldman called the Cubs ``a dream scenario'' for him, especially with the assurance he would be part of the rotation.
``I'm pretty confident I can get back to the level of success I had in 2009,'' he said. ``That was the first time I was getting regular work and I got a lot of confidence. Compared to the last season, I think I'm a better pitcher now and feel I'm able to do more now than in 2009.''
The Cubs will make a roster move later Tuesday to add Feldman to the 40-man roster.
Hoyer also said he remains in talks with third baseman Ian Stewart, who missed most of last season with a wrist injury. The team has until Friday to decide to tender him a contract.
``He's taking light batting practice,'' Hoyer said. ``We'll continue to talk over the next few days.''
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Cubs manager Dale Sveum and Rob Deer were teammates with the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1980s. They will team again next season with the Cubs as Deer joins Sveum's coaching staff as an assistant hitting coach.
Deer, 52, will be an assistant to hitting coach James Rowson, who replaced Rudy Jaramillo after he was fired at mid-season this year. His 11-year career ended in 1996. He has spent time as a roving minor league hitting instructor in the San Diego Padres system and also is the creator of a hitting aide device called Vizubat.
Deer hit only .220 for his career and led the leagues in strikeouts four different seasons. He hit 230 home runs and drove in 600 in his career.
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Former Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood and his Wood Family Foundation have selected the Nash Elementary School in the Austin neighborhood for the foundation's annual ``Warm Wishes'' program.
Donors and sponsors will help create a ``winter wonderland'' at the school for December and each of the 430 pupils will receive a winter coat and holiday gift.
The foundation also will team with the Haray Caray restaurants to collect new winter clothing items, including new hats, gloves and scarves for children in the Englewood and Lawndale neighborhoods from now through Jan. 18. Collection bins will be set up in the four restaurant locations on Kinzie Street, Rosemont, Lombard and Navy Pier.

The Cubs have announced postponement of the Friday opening of the ice skating rink at Wrigley Field because of the warm weather.
The team posted a notice on its website Wednesday that the planned opening of the Rink At Wrigley has been delayed. The opening was to be part of holiday activities for fans and the Wrigleyville neighborhood planned through the day Friday. No new date has been set yet for the rink's opening.


Reports by Baseball America say the Cubs have signed Chicago area native Brian Bogusevic to a minor league contract, though the team has not confirmed the report.
Outfielder Bogusevic, 28, who attended De La Salle High and Tulane University, was a 2005 first round pick of the Houston Astros and played the last three seasons for them, hitting .203 with seven home runs this season. He played all three outfield positions for the Astros but was a free agent after the season.
The Cubs also have signed several other players to minor league contracts, including former Texas infielder Alberto Gonzalez; outfielder Johermyn Chavez from the Seattle Mariners system and catcher J. C. Boscan, who played briefly this season with the Atlanta Braves.



The Cubs will begin selling holiday ticket packages on Friday, including a four-game package starting at
$98.
Eight different four-game packages will be offered in both the main seating area and the bleachers. Packages can be customized to include as few as two tickets per game or as many as 12 per game.
The packages must be ordered by Dec. 10 for mail delivery or by Dec. 17 for FedEx delivery before Christmas.
Information is available at cubs.com or by calling 773-404-4242.
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Bryan LaHair's unusual 2012 season with the Cubs went from starting first baseman to All-Star to bench player. On Tuesday, the Cubs designated him for assignment while working to help him sign with a club in Japan.
That was part of several roster moves the team made Tuesday, including acquiring minor league pitcher Barret Loux from Texas for Class AA righthander Jake Brigham while adding four players to the 40-man roster.
Loux, 23, and a player to be named later will come from Texas while Brigham, 24, returns to Texas after coming from the Rangers in July as part of the deal sending catcher Geovany Soto to Texas.
LaHair began the season winning the first baseman's job after Carlos Pena wasn't re-signed. He was considered the placeholder until prospect Anthony Rizzo was ready to take over.
But LaHair, 30, surprised the team--and the National League--with a strong first half that saw him hit .286 with 14 home runs and 30 RBI. Those statistics earned him selection to the National League All Star team by voting among players.
Rizzo's promotion to the major league team in June changed things, with LaHair relegated to the bench.
He hit only .202 with two home runs and 10 RBI in the second half.
The Cubs designated him for assignment in an effort to help him sign with a club in Japan.
The team made several other moves Tuesday, including
adding Class AA right-hander Trey McNutt, Class A infielder Christian Villanueva, Class A pitcher Robert Whitenack and Class AA infielder Logan Watkins to the 40-man roster.
McNutt, 23, has a 27-16 record and 3.45 ERA in four minor league seasons. He entered the 2012 season ranked the fourth best prospect in the organization by ``Baseball America''.
Villanueva, 21, was acquired from the Rangers as part of the trade sending pitcher Ryan Dempster to Texas.
Watkins, 23, was named the organization's 2012 minor league player of the year after hitting .281 with 20 doubles, 11 triples, nine home runs and 52 RBI. He led the Southern League in runs scored and was second in triples.
Whitenack, 24, pitched at Class A Daytona this season after coming back from Tommy John surgery in 2011.
The Cubs also added righthanded pitcher Carlos Gutierrez to Class AAA Iowa's roster after he cleared waivers.
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Cubs Charities will hold a daylong event for fans and Lakeview residents at Wrigley Field on Nov. 30, capped by the lighting of the Cubs holiday tree at 5 p.m. Outfielder David DeJesus and his family will help light the tree with local officials and community leaders. The event will include free hot chocolate and ice skating from 5:30 to 6:30 on the Rink at Wrigley.
Rink rental will apply, but those who donate an unwrapped toy at Wrigley Field between No. 25 and Nov. 29 and Nov. 30 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. will receive a pass for one free skating session at the Rink during the 2012-2013 skating season. Toys will be donated to actress Jennifer Hudson's Julian D. King Gift Foundation.

ROSEMONT - Bud Selig made a point Thursday to say he wasn't ready to sign off on the Miami Marlins' roster-purge trade with Toronto that has fans in Miami still paying for a year-old stadium fuming.

But during the same conversation with a handful of baseball writers at a Rosemont hotel, the baseball commissioner made it clear he's a willing, vocal supporter of high-revenue signature teams such as the Cubs and Boston Red Sox committing to rebuilding seasons despite charging some of the highest ticket prices in the game - with the Cubs' intentional, multiyear project in particular marking an historic first for a big-market team in the free agency era.

``What the Cubs are doing in my opinion with [team president] Theo [Epstein], they're absolutely on the right track. I can't be critical of that,'' Selig said when asked about the Cubs' and Red Sox' stated plans of rebuilding despite continuing ticket prices that rank both among the top three in the game.


Selig said he doesn't believe the Red Sox are rebuilding, despite Boston president and CEO Larry Lucchino acknowledging at least a short-term rebuilding while talking with two Chicago writers a day earlier.

``We refuse to put a timetable on it,'' Lucchino said. ``But we sure don't have any five-year plans or any such things.''

The bottom line in baseball's highest offices seems to be just that. Selig spoke at Thursday's conclusion of quarterly owners meetings about record attendance and the potential for the industry to crack the $8 billion mark in revenue for the first time next year - in part on the strength of a new set of national TV deals that were approved by owners Thursday and that roughly double the annual take from the previous deals.

Selig invoked the name of legendary executive Branch Rickey when talking about Epstein's organization-building efforts while ignoring that the erstwhile Rickey operated in a pre-free agency, pre-draft, pre-TV-money era of cheap labor that required drawing paying customers to make a profit and that presented Rickey with the greatest, most obvious market inefficiency in baseball history to exploit, given the brass to tackle it: segregation.

The fact is the Cubs are one of the highest-revenue teams in baseball. And they raised prices on 38 of their 65 ticket price points after losing 101 games last season. And their first two free agent signings of this winter are bargain one-year deals as they continue to suggest patience for a homegrown core they envision emerging in some uncertain future.

And the game's top official is on board, even if it means a lukewarm effort to be competitive in the short term.

``There are different ways to try to compete, and sometimes you've got to be realistic,'' Selig said. ``And sometimes you have to say to yourself, I've got to rebuild my scouting [department], I've got to rebuild my international, I have to do a series of things.

``I'll repeat to you one more time: I'm a believer in that. In spite of the fact that our dynamic has changed, I still believe it. I would do it again if I was running a club, and I can't be critical.''

That doesn't justify one of the highest revenue teams in such a growing-revenue sport not making a bona fide effort to provide present-day value for the present-day dollars they're charging for their product.

``I don't think anybody can accuse the Red Sox of not [trying to compete]. And I like the way the Cubs are going,'' Selig said. ``If I was running the franchise, I would follow that pattern to a T.''

Selig's willing to do more than that for the Cubs and chairman Tom Ricketts when it comes to reviving efforts to get $160 million in public money for Wrigley Field renovation now that the presidential election has passed.

``I've talked a lot to Tom, and I certainly want to be involved and helpful, to help them get done what they want to get done,'' said Selig, who also got involved to help push through public funding for the Cubs' new spring training complex, as well as the controversial new stadium in Miami. ``Tom and I will have conversations in the near future, and I'll learn more about where they are.''

In a rare and brief media interview Thursday, Ricketts said he doesn't expect Selig to get involved in talks with Mayor Rahm Emanuel that ended abruptly several months ago over family patriarch Joe Ricketts' involvement with a proposal for a racially-tinged smear-campaign against Emanuel's pal President Barack Obama.

Emanuel is expected to eventually sign on to a Wrigley plan but not until handling several higher-priority items on his agenda. And Ricketts on Thursday said he had no immediate expectation of renewed traction in the post-election climate.

``Basically, right now were just working through our plans and then we'll just start the process,'' Ricketts said, ``and hopefully sometime soon we'll have it all figured out. That's really all we can do.''

Deal on horizon for Cubs' Samardzija?

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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Could Jeff Samardzija be on the verge of a multi-year contract offer from the Cubs?

``I'm not going to comment on it, but he's had a great year and certainly he's a guy we hope is in a Cubs' uniform for a long time,'' Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said Wednesday when asked about the arbitration-eligible pitcher.

Samardzija, who turned a corner in his big-league career in 2011 with a strong season out of the bullpen, took an even bigger step this season in making a successful transition to the rotation as a powerful, consistent starter.

Hoyer, talking to reporters during the first day of general managers meetings at Indian Wells Resort, mentioned the value of locking up good, young, homegrown players to long-term deals early in their careers just before the subject of Samardzija was raised.

``He's a great competitor, and I think he's the kind of guy that teammates really look up to,'' Hoyer said. ``And I think he has the potential down the road to be a really good leader. ...

``It's hard to be a leader when you're also trying to establish your career. But now that he's had a really great season, I think he can probably be that guy. There's nothing but positive things to say about the year he had, and getting to know him, he's really impressive.''

The Cubs this season signed shortstop Starlin Castro to a seven-year, $60 million extension.

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- The Cubs' front office reached out to closer Carlos Marmol in the aftermath of Friday's non-trade to the Angels, and general manager Jed Hoyer said the team ``deserves some blame'' for the leak that led to reports about a trade that was never finalized.

Neither Hoyer nor team president Theo Epstein would comment on details of the negotiations with the Angels for pitcher Dan Haren. But sources confirmed that medical issues led to the Cubs pulling out of the deal - long after Marmol had told multiple media outlets he had been traded.

The Angels also required more than $3 million to offset Marmol's $9.8 million salary, but that wasn't a sticking point, said one source.

Either way, Marmol spent much of Friday preparing for a trade from the only organization he's played for, and the Cubs ended up with a replay of July's embarrassing Ryan Dempster-to-Atlanta trade/no-trade situation.

``We've spoken with [Marmol],'' Hoyer said. ``A big part of what happened was we never had a deal [completed]. A done deal to me is every part of the deal is done, and you sent out a press release. Obviously, we never got to that point.

``What we had with Carlos is we got to the point where we were close enough and we needed to go to Carlos and ask if he'd waive his no-trade [rights] to go to the Angels. And once we involved the player, it leaked out, and then everyone ran with it like it was a done deal.

``It was unfortunate. It was a miscommunication. Carlos ran with it that he had been traded, even tough the deal wasn't complete. ... Some of that blame might be ours, that we could have made it more clear to him: `Hey, listen, hold tight, this is a theoretical, would-you-do-this,' as opposed to this is a done deal.

``Maybe we deserve some blame for that, too.''

How do the Cubs now go back to Marmol if they find somebody else willing to consider trading for him?

``Maybe we'd have to word it a little different,'' Hoyer said.

It's a serious long shot from happening, but the Cubs on Thursday acknowledged they've had one low-level, informal discussion with longtime former Cub pitcher Ryan Dempster about a return to the team as a free agent - barely three months after a messy trade-deadline saga eventually ended with him being traded to the Texas Rangers on July 31.

Dempster, 35, doesn't fit any of the Cubs' requirements for an ideal free agent other than the fact he's a positive, known commodity in the clubhouse and pitched well this season.

If he can't be signed on a short-term deal at a steep discount from this year's $14 million salary, he doesn't fit at all - leaving the already unlikely scenario a non-starter if his value in a thin free agent market rises quickly this month.

But if it happened, it wouldn't be the first time a longtime Cub gave the team a hometown discount to stay (read: Dempster's pal Kerry Wood).

General manager Jed Hoyer said the club has had a preliminary conversation with the former All-Star but downplayed the level of interest for either side at this point.

``Obviously there's mutual respect there,'' Hoyer conceded, adding that the difficult process in July of working with Dempster on waiving his no-trade rights left ``no hard feelings at all, and that wouldn't preclude us from bringing him back at all.''


NOTES

--Top prospect Javier Baez had his Arizona Fall League season cut short because of a non-displaced fracture on the tip of his right thumb, apparently suffered during an on-field celebration move. Hoyer said there are no long-term concerns.

-- Arbitration-eligible pitcher Matt Garza - the most tenured starter remaining - is scheduled for another scan on his elbow later this month, ahead of an anticipated throwing program. Garza has been shut down since late July after being diagnosed with a ``stress reaction'' in a bone near his elbow. Club officials say this month's scan has long been on the schedule, and they remain optimistic Garza will be at full strength when spring training starts.

--The Cubs announced Feb. 9 as reporting date for pitchers and catchers (earlier than usual because of the World Baseball Classic).

--The Cubs announced the hiring of former Toronto Blue Jays minor league hitting coordinator Anthony Iopace as a special assistant to the GM for player development.

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